San Antonio Sweeping Services

For this month’s Spotlight feature we had a good conversation with Brian Cooper of San Antonio Sweeping Services, a family owned company, which was founded in 1996. San Antonio Sweeping Services is one of the largest full service sweeping companies in all of South Texas. Brian’s company is also very environmentally friendly, using innovative sweeper truck technology to cut down on much of the exhaust and loud noise by using less impactful machines. These days, after almost 20 years of mostly successful business, San Antonio Sweeping Services has developed into a full service parking lot maintenance company that can take care of anyone’s parking lot needs. They have the knowledge, expertise, and equipment to do the job once, completely and thoroughly, and offer competitive pricing packages.

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your background? Can you say a few words about your education and training? How did you get into the business? Why did you get into the power sweeping and other related businesses and services? What did you do before you started your own business?
I moved to San Antonio in 1991 to finish my Business Management degree at the University of Texas, San Antonio. While going to school I was able to work for a local sweeping company at night while continuing my education during the day. After the company was sold I noticed a real opportunity to forge forward with my own company based on current market demands. In the beginning it was a one man show.
My business degree certainly helped me understand the ins and outs of basic business practices, but did little to prepare me for the challenge of actually running a business with employees. I found through the years that the best approach for dealing with people, whether employees or clients, is to treat them with respect. I’ve learned to really listen to what they are saying and what their concerns are.

Q: What is your business model? How have you structured your business? What plans, models, or organizations, configurations, did you envision when you thought about how you wanted to set up your business structure? First, in terms of services and equipment you thought you wanted and needed and second, in terms of employee base.
Our business model is to provide the best service available at a fair price. Our structure is based on communication, whether that is with our customers or within our own company. I think with any company, you have to have the knowledge of the industry’s ever changing demands and have the right equipment and man power to provide that service. We stay knowledgeable in current technologies available to the industry in order to remain ahead of our competition.

Q: Can you please speak to the types and kinds of growth that your business experiences? Are there patterns you have recognized? What problems have you faced, and how have you handled them?
Since the start of San Antonio Sweeping Services, there has been consistent growth in our sweeping services. We have seen significant expansion in heavy highway projects, which requires more dedication of man hours. With growth, we have more customers to manage which has allowed us to hire more experienced personnel to reach an even broader customer base.

Q: How do you secure new customers? What about bidding and estimating processes and strategies? Do you have anchor clients and then branch out around a particular area? What is the general size of most of your contracts?
We secure new customers through a competitive estimating and bidding process, which involves networking and building business relationships. Often we are able to provide add-on services or wrap-around services that increase the ease and convenience for our clients. Serving new customers is not difficult as long as you are honest with them and follow through on what you say you are going to do. This straight forward approach is well received and brings consistent and repeat business our way. Our projects range in size from very small striping jobs to yearly sweeping projects.

Q: How many contracts/customers do you serve weekly on a regular basis? How about customers/contracts per month?
Our customer base is ever-expanding. We currently service over 200 properties throughout South Texas. Service ranges from nightly to monthly.

Q: Tell me what products or services you have added on recently. Why those products or services?
We have considerably expanded our services into parking lot striping, power washing, asphalt, seal coating, and concrete. Our customers like the fact that we offer a possible turnkey completion service when it comes to parking lots and road construction. We have gained their trust and continuous business on superior customer service.

Q: What are some of the distinguishing features and services of your company that you have used to strategically position your business in your local communities?
We separate ourselves from the competition because we are not about trying to beat their price. We would rather outshine their customer service and productivity. We are committed to doing our projects well, and completely. We are confident in our prices because we are confident in the standard of service we provide. Our customers appreciate how thorough and complete our services are, and are therefore willing to pay for that level of service and commitment.

Q: How did/do you arrive at creating a unique image or identity for your company? What are points of differences to how you work with your target client base, differences that make your company stand out?
Communication within the office is where we build our integrity. We utilize excellent customer communication strategies. Every one of our office staff members are well-trained in all aspects of customer service. Prompt communication is the key to first impressions and we are excellent in this area. Even if we may not get the potential job, the customer remembers our promptness and almost always we will get the next opportunity with that customer.

Q: Tell me a little bit about the day-to-day operations. Are there logs the drivers need to read and sign? What typically goes on at a job site? Give me the run down on what your workers do, how they do it, etc how does your team share information back and forth? Give me a sense of the quantity of material equipment at your average site. Tell me about your truck and vehicle scheduling.
Day to day operations and scheduling is done through telecommunications. All scheduling and job information is done through smart phones with our employees which allows on demand communication. This allows us to monitor them in real time while on the job. This enhances our business model that strives for high personal responsibility and accountability. Aside from the regular clients that we service on a schedule, we send our trucks out on an on-call basis. Our trucks run 24/7. We don’t have driver logs because all of our trucks are monitored with GPS systems, which allow us to see when and where they are on a job-site.
This is a good use of technology because it leads to high efficiency and increased productivity, which can also drive sales. We stress excellent customer service and we can achieve that with constant, up-to-date communication with customers through multiple devices. We use the latest kind of mobile technology, and most importantly phone calls and personal visits to customers on a regular basis.

Q: I am interested in all of the employees that work for the company. Who works at the company? How many employees? What are their titles (managers, administrative, drivers, truck mechanics, technicians, etc.).
Our staff here consists of nine employees. Every employee including myself is trained for every position. We don’t run a typical hierarchy type structure of business here. Our business model allows for responsible and accountable employees who are all cross trained and able to provide all the services needed. This allows us to delegate responsibilities in an effort to be flexible in job scheduling.

Q: How do you boost efficiency in your jobs and your workers? How do you boost morale in your workers? What do you expect of them? Who trains them?
Morale and efficiency go hand in hand and are never overlooked. Making sure the crews have the best working equipment and are treated with respect allows everyone to work at their highest potential. Positions on jobs are always being rotated that way no one person gets stuck and bored, which could affect morale and efficiency. Training and development are ongoing.

Q: What sweeper trucks, and other equipment, machinery technology do you use?
The equipment we use to service our customers depends on the task at hand. We use Tymco 435 trucks for our heavy construction and road cleaning jobs. For smaller parking lot work we utilize Nitehawk sweepers because we really like the idea of no auxiliary motors pumping more toxins into the air. We also use BlackVue Dual lens dash and cab cameras on every unit so we are able to view in real time what our drivers are seeing. They also come with a rear facing camera that we are able to face toward our drivers. This allows us to “check in” to see how things are going and to make sure the driver is not having any issues.
For our pressure washing services we use North Star pressure washers on trailers. These units are great as they provide heat if needed. They also come with water tanks that allow us to provide service for customers with limited or no water supply. We have recently added some Mystic Washers- 4,000 psi units, to our line which are smaller and more portable. The motor for the unit sits right on top of the surface cleaner so you never lose water pressure where you need it. You can switch these units from gun to surface cleaner with the flip of a lever. All of our striping services are done with Graco Line Lazer IV’s. These are rock solid units that will give you miles of striping.
We have incorporated GPS tracking and real time video monitoring in all the vehicles. This allows us to keep up-to-the minute communication with our drivers, as well as inform our customers about when and where we are sweeping so that they can have that for their records. Real-time cameras are outstanding for educating and training our drivers because we can see what they see and answer their questions in real time while they are on the job.
The phone app allows us to send a GPS reading to our customer immediately if there is ever a discrepancy about services rendered. This has minimized any disputes that were once hard to verify in the past. Our customers appreciate getting this kind of immediate feedback.

Q: How does the whole disposal process work in your particular municipality or state?
Our customers are responsible for the waste we collect on sweeping jobs. We work with the customer as to how and where to dispose of the waste, which also keeps our cost down by not having to haul it off to other sites.

Q: What kind of strategies and policies do you have when it comes to environmental issues? For example, what “green” processes/technologies/policies do you follow? Why those? Are there others you would like to pursue? Are there particular environmental laws or policies —either local or federal—that you have to deal with on a regular basis? How do you deal with existing/new federal, state or municipal rules, regulations, statutes, laws, etc. regarding the environment?
Sweeping is one way we are doing our part to help the environment. We think it is important to educate the customer on what goes down the sewer drains, informing them of how sweeping helps keep the environment cleaner, and at the same time it can help the site look better to the community. This strategy has been pretty successful in helping us get our foot in the door to potential clients. Texas does not have laws as strict as other states when it comes to sweeping regulations. This means more customer education is needed. The extra work on our part is worth it overall.

Q: How do you identify and respond to existing/new market segments that provide the best opportunities for growth and why? What growth potential do you see for your business? Tell us about the company’s growth model. What is your target growth percentage? Are there times when you do not reach or you exceed it? What are the factors, do you think, that contribute to the growth or non-growth of the company?
As we grow we have to always keep an eye on the newest technology and educate ourselves about everything that is available to us. Thinking you have a handle on the industry is exactly when your competition starts to pass you up. Continuing education is important to us, and we do as much of it as we can to keep abreast of all the latest trends and changes. Constantly improving is paramount to staying ahead and providing the best service to our customers. We have target growth goals that are constantly monitored and adjusted.

Q: What is the breakdown in percentage of your business in terms of different divisions offered? What part or division experiences the most growth? Why?
About 60% of our revenue comes from our sweeping and follow-truck services. Striping and seal-coating account for 20% and pressure washing rounds it out with another 20%. We are seeing more growth currently in our sweeping and follow-truck services.

Q: What are the most challenging aspects of your business and industry? What hurdles do you confront and how do you handle them? What strategies do you have in place to successfully find solutions to these challenges? What are your policies and procedures for responding to emergencies your clients may have? Does your business face any particular and unique seasonal issues? If so, please explain.
Our biggest challenge is to maintain a reliable employee base. This means constantly educating them to get the experience needed, and to get the jobs done efficiently with minimal mistakes. We want to be the first company clients think of when they need fast and reliable service. Procedures of 24/7 communication are in place to ensure customer’s needs are met when problems arise. There is always someone in our company on-call and ready to handle the next challenge that may arise on a job site.

Q: What do you see or expect, or how do you handle seen or unseen outside forces, that may affect your company’s success?
We are always monitoring what could possibly affect us negatively. It usually comes down to not taking care of your equipment that can affect whether you are able to service your customers in a timely manner. Also, listening to your employees is a must so morale will not start to slip. Addressing their needs and concerns builds up respect and provides them a great working environment that gives us dependable employees for the future. This allows us to avoid the pitfalls that can really hurt a company when trying to get a project completed on time and on budget.

Q: How much of an eye do you keep on new and emerging technologies that could change/modify how you and your competitors do business and provide the best services?
Simply stated, we feel that to be the best you need to stay on top of current technology. The 21st century customers are smart and knowledgeable, and they depend on us to provide the best service using the most up-to-date equipment available. It is our job to make sure we do just that. For more information on San Antonio Sweeping Services visit their website: www.sanantoniosweepingservices.com.

Story by Mark Joseph Manion

RESOURCES:
www.tymco.com
www.nighthawksweepers.com
www.blackvue.com
www.northerntool.com
www.mysticwasher.com
www.graco.com

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